Developing ‘greener 
buildings’ with copper

DUBAI - Out of the ten countries leading in per capita ecological footprint in the World Wildlife Fund Living Planet Report 2010, there are three Gulf countries – the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait.

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Tue 30 Nov 2010, 10:33 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 11:35 AM

This is despite the emphasis of the regional governments in promoting sustainable development. One of the considerations in driving the development with a focus on the environment and sustainability is to develop ‘green buildings’ in line with the vision of the governments in the region. Abu Dhabi and Dubai have already taken pioneering steps in promoting ‘green buildings,’ which drive energy and water use efficiency.

Few people realise that buildings have the greatest impact on climate change — more than transportation and industry - because they consume much electricity and natural gas, and they’re all powered by power plants that themselves produce carbon emissions.

The concept of green buildings gets support from an unlikely source — the metal, copper. According to Tom Dietsche, LEED Programme Manager, US Green Building Council, “Green Building projects that can earn LEED points include those that have incorporated recycled content materials, such as copper, which promotes sustainability and helps to reduce the impact of new material extraction on the environment.”

Copper is possibly the greenest commonly used architectural metal today. Copper plays an essential role in the modern building, from recycled cladding and roofing systems, to high-tech plumbing and heating systems using tube and fittings which are manufactured from recycled copper. Even the wire and cable systems and monitoring equipment depend on upsized copper wire to maximise system efficiency, eliminate power quality issues, and play a key role in green power systems. Copper and copper alloys are also used in the manufacture of interior design fixtures and decorative objects. Handles, door knobs and lock cylinders are current hardware items found in homes around the world.

Copper is a key component of many energy-saving technologies. For example, passive solar water heating systems employ copper to capture and convert sunlight into heat. Copper heat exchangers efficiently transfer the thermal energy absorbed by the solar collector to the home’s hot water system. Sunlight is abundant, renewable and, even where it is not readily available, can supplement a home’s hot water needs virtually cost-free once a system is installed.

Developers can use copper to conserve energy through the installation of a heat exchanger for wastewater recovery. This type of heat exchanger typically has a large-diameter copper pipe wrapped in thin-wall copper tubing. Warm wastewater flowing through the larger pipe transfers its heat to the outer coil carrying the home’s domestic water, which in turn reduces the amount of electricity or gas needed to make hot water.

Copper plumbing is specified in most commercial plumbing, and is used extensively as a tubing material in HVAC systems. Copper used for plumbing tube; sheet products such as cladding, flashing and roofing applications; heating and cooling systems; and the copper found in brass or bronze builders hardware and fixtures can be recycled over and over with no loss of its physical attributes.

Another option for green plumbing systems is radiant heating that uses copper to circulate water or a heat transfer fluid. Hot water recirculating systems that rely on copper tubing for efficient fluid transfer are also gaining in popularity. These systems not only increase energy efficiency, they help to conserve water as well.

The building industry has long valued the beauty, longevity and practicality of copper. Its high ductility makes it easily formable, so it is easy to work with and ideal for cladding complicated details and shapes.

Copper is also naturally resistant to weathering and decay, and can be alloyed with other commonly available metals to increase its strength and performance characteristics, colour, and tarnish resistance, thus making it an important material for sustainable, green building projects.

(Ravinder Bhan, Principal Consultant, TPS Management Consultants for International Copper Association)

More news from